New pandemic law takes effect; experts say it undermines public health

As of Wednesday, there are 132 new sheriffs in town.

When the new coronavirus emerged in Ohio, state law conferred “ultimate authority in matters of quarantine and isolation” to the Ohio Department of Health. It was the ODH director, and the governor who appointed her, who called the shots.

The paradigm shifted Wednesday via the enactment Senate Bill 22, which blocks the health department from issuing any kind of stay-at-home order like those of the early weeks in the pandemic. It also allows the 132 lawmakers in the General Assembly to vote down health orders or emergency declarations without needing the governor’s approval.

The precise implications of the law are tough to pin down — no one knows what the next pandemic will look like or who will control the legislature when it does. Or for that matter, no one knows how this current pandemic will end as a new, faster-spreading and more virulent mutation of the new coronavirus becomes increasingly prevalent.

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